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New Owners Of Cheese Factory Visit Plant

The former Castelli American factory in Blockville closed its doors in December. P-J file photo

Plans to reopen a shuttered cheese factory in the town of Harmony are finally moving forward.

Chautauqua County Industrial Development Director Mark Geise shared at an IDA board meeting that the new owners of the former Castelli America Cheese factory in Blockville have finally been able to enter the plant.

The facility was purchased in February by an Italian-based investment group after the factory was closed in December 2019. The newly formed company, Vittoria Dairy Inc., said in U.S. Bankruptcy Court documents it plans to eventually process cheese at the 5152 Fairbanks Road plant after its $1.4 million bid for the facility and its equipment was approved in a court-supervised auction.

However, due to COVID restrictions the new owners were unable to get into the country to see plant. That changed earlier this month. Geise said once the new owners arrived, a number of local, county and state officials met with them.

“They’re looking to invest about $10 million in that facility,” he said.

According to Geise, they would like to put an addition on the plant for aging hard parmesan cheese that they’re going to be making. “This is really exciting. They’re looking at 34 employees to start and then ramping up to 80 employees after three years,” he said.

In other business, board members heard about a warehouse in Dunkirk getting an upgrade.

During the IDA meeting, board members learned about tax breaks that were approved by the Transaction Committee to Muldowney Development, Inc. for the property located at 3817 Lake Shore Drive East, otherwise known as the Route 5 Warehouse and Business Park.

The committee approved sales tax abatement of up to $40,000 on the business’ $500,000 project. The expansion, according to IDA officials, is to create more storage space for Dunkirk industries. The project includes a new roof, gymnasium, expansion for childcare, sprinkler upgrades. insulation, heating and lighting.

The project is expected to create up to 10 construction jobs and two part-time positions once completed. It should be finished by the end of 2022.

Geise said the project began as a need for a sprinkler system due to problems with the Stegelske pump station. It served Atwater Capital and the Route 5 warehouse, however the pump was damaged and neither the city, nor the town of Dunkirk, were interested in repairing it. “It really forced it upon Atwater and Muldowney to take care of their fire suppression systems on their own,” he said.

Since the sprinkler system was getting an upgrade, Geise said owner Kevin Muldowney decided to make additional upgrades. “It stemmed from necessity, but while he’s at it, he’s got this opportunity to attract other customers,” he said.

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